Intrigue in the Bakumatsu is another Japanese historical anime that mixes historical re-imagining with Japanese folklore, in this case the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate as swordsman Akizuki Yojiro tries to track down the whereabouts of a cursed mask that a shady auction owner has in his possession. Throughout his quest, Yojiro crosses paths with a theater troupe who are banded together to avenge the murder of their leader's parents and have a playwright among their troupe with hidden motives for his involvement with the group. The series is mostly plot-driven as it mixes around elements to the real-life tensions between factions that took place in the Tokugawa era with the original plot of Yojiro trying to hunt down and seal the cursed mask. The plot is an engaging one as political and mystical elements get brought into the mix with multiple factions (some being Europeans) trying to either claim their influence in Japan or get the cursed mask in their possession with a few surprising plot twists that help to shake things up in the anime's plot towards its second half. A number of major characters get fleshed out enough so you can care enough for their involvement in Yojiro's journey and some characters based on real-life historical figures, like a few members of the Shinsengumi, are around to make things interesting. Obviously with the heavy focus on history with the final years of Japan's Tokugawa period, it is best that you at least have some knowledge of the history and influential figures of the period so you aren't lost on what gets mentioned.
That isn't to say all is perfect with this series. Being mostly plot-driven, there are some characters who are underdeveloped compared to others and the final few episodes of the series get a bit too overblown with the folklore elements they play out involving the cursed mask, pulling these at great cost to the solid mix of folklore and period politics that took place throughout much of the series. Plus, it can get convoluted at points trying to follow the multiple factions and many characters that are around throughout the series, enough so where I did have to rewatch episodes at points just to make sense of who was involved with whatever faction and why.
Episodes seen: 6
Set in Yokohama at the end of the samurai era, this series seems to be trying for a mix of historically accurate action/drama, and fantasy elements involving an ancient treasure supposed to confer extraordinary power on those who possess it.
Bakumatsu is one of those anime containing a large cast of characters with competing agendas, loosely revolving around this ancient treasure. It also drops you into the middle of this conflict without much explanation as to what's going on. After six episodes, I have to say it's been difficult to follow all the dealings and manouvering between the different factions. Hopefully this will settle down as the plot develops, as the story and some of the characters are interesting.
Last updated Saturday, April 28 2007. Created Friday, April 27 2007.
Yokohama at this time was the only open port in Japan for western merchants – a city full of intrigue and dark dealings. The merchants were very busy smuggling in their high-tech goods (such as gattling-guns), while western agents are busy trying to negotiate backroom deals with whatever lord is brave enough to risk being associated with them.
Great animation – interesting setting and characters – very much a dramatic action story with a lot of sword, gun and ninja combat scenes.
But to be honest, I kinda lost interest at about episode 12 when the story got too deep, ponderous and complex. It just got to be a bit too much in trying to mix ancient priests and magic surrounding the mystery of the 'magic head', with the machinations of politics and western weapons.
(I have posted some snaps from the first episode)
Last updated Monday, September 22 2008. Created Friday, November 10 2006.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site